It is no longer some veiled threat that takes place in a distant, dystopian future. It is a threat to all life that makes it seem like a fourth horseman of the apocalypse.
Climate change is here.
It is not a kind of disaster movie scenario either, but it is scary as hell. And the Philippines will be among the worst to be hit because it is the least prepared.
The warnings of not only past years, but past decades were not heeded and we are paying the price today. Right here, right now.
It’s already November yet storms are still taking place in our part of the world. I’ve been around for a long time but I cannot for the life of me remember this time of year as typhoon season. Usually, the Philippines’ rainy season would peak between June to August. By the last quarter of the year, there would still be the occasional rains, but not typhoon-level weather disturbances.
The week just passed is almost one for the books. A killer earthquake struck Northern Luzon at about the time that back-to-back storms were causing serious loss of life and property.
The latest, named Paeng, has left more than a hundred dead, their lives taken either by unexpectedly deadly floods or communities being washed out by mudslides.
Mother Earth may be angry, but that anger was exacerbated by the unabated logging anywhere in the country that has some forest cover. Without trees, storms can only wash away mountains, as what happened in Maguindanao.
Legal or otherwise, logging has been the biggest bane of the Philippine environment. Big corporations owned by politically powerful families may shoulder much of the blame, but even small-time loggers cannot deny that they also share in the loss of the country’s forest cover.
I recall a time when my boss, who was from Davao, told us that small time logging was not that small, that big money could be made even by individuals who would cut big trees, bring those felled trees down from the mountains with the help of a carabao, and expect to have a tiny windfall.
The guy was previously an executive of a multinational corporation, but he said he could earn as much as any of his superiors by the practice of weekend logging.
It was no secret though, as he said many individuals resorted to this sideline.
Yes, he should have known better. Being a leader of a Christian organization, I was surprised that he cared so little about the environment. His excuse was that those trees that helped him earn tidy sums were a gift from God. He also believed he was not hurting anyone by cutting some big, old trees on weekends.
Besides, he reasoned, the trees were turned into lumber which was essential to the construction industry. Ergo, he was helping Filipinos achieve their dream of owning their own homes by providing the raw material they needed.
Then there are the kaingineros that we learned about in grade school. They were basically slash-and-burn farmers who created their own land to till by cutting down trees in any area they felt like destroying.
As kids, we asked: What’s wrong with that? Didn’t they plant crops that ended up in the markets and eventually our dining tables?
How innocent we were back in the day. We were not aware of it but it turned out that a few of our classmates and schoolmates were actually the children of the owners of those big, bad logging companies.
Of course, the big family-owned lumber companies were most at fault as they had the means to minimize, if not eradicate the damage they caused. All they had to do was to replant the areas that they denuded.
But did they?
Further, the one president whom we all loved because we were taught that he was a true hero for defeating the communists who were encircling Manila in the 50s then later dying in a plane crash may have been a great Filipino. But his family? Not so much.
He may have raised a son who became a respected businessman and lawmaker, but other members of his family have been blamed for practically denuding the mountains of his home province.
I can’t forget how a friend pointed out a mountain to me one time and asked if I noticed anything unusual.
He then said that one side had lost all its forest cover, while the other side still had large trees. The denuded side was part of the home province of the beloved president I refer to.
There are also other examples of almost all Filipinos being part of the problem. After every storm, drainage canals are usually blocked by single use plastics. Those that may their way to the sea either end up in the bellies of all types of sea life, from the gigantic whales to the smallest of fish, effectively poisoning them.
The single use plastics that do not end up as fish food are driven back to our shores, often making formerly pristine beaches as practically unswimmable.
One recent study said the Philippines would be among the countries that will suffer the most in the years to come as a result of climate change.
It’s an awful attitude to take, but a good many Filipinos simply do not care to be friendlier to the planet because they blame the world’s biggest economies as being the most responsible for what is happening now.
It’s a defeatist attitude, to be sure.
Some of our youth talk and act like Pinoy Greta Thunbergs. The Swiss activist may be the real deal, so I am hoping that her Filipino counterparts will be more serious than their parents and grandparents – that’s us, folks – and not only talk the talk, but actually walk the walk.
Much as it hurts, I can only conclude that my generation and the generations that came before and after didn’t do a good job of saving the only home we will ever have.
We had our shot and we blew it.